Monday, June 23, 2008


When captains of commercial vessels near inland waters, they surrender control of their ships to pilots who are trained in the changing conditions of their local waters.

Here is a map of the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware Bay, and the man-made link between the two, the C & D Canal.

Now, there are pilots who operate in the Chesapeake Bay, and pilots who operate in the Delaware Bay. None operate in both.

So what happens when a ship jumps bays by traveling the canal?

That's where this little boat comes in (and it's sister).

As ships approach the town of Chesapeake City on the canal, pilots jump into these boats, which come up alongside. The outgoing pilot climbs down a long, long rope ladder to the waiting boat below, and the incoming pilot climbs up to relieve him or her.

It's a switch. Chesapeake for Delaware, or Delaware for Chesapeake, depending on the direction.

We had lunch along the water this weekend and watched for ships dwarfing the canal. But the pilot mooring stayed silent. And the little red boats slept in the sun.


Sarah Hina said...

What an interesting switcheroo...but it must be a safer system to navigate the waters you're familiar with.

A nice, peaceful picnicking spot for you and Aine to enjoy. Even those little red boats deserve a rest sometimes. :)

Aine said...

And the little red boats slept in the sun.

Indeed! What a beautiful day for relaxing along the canal. It's fun to learn the history behind these small yet significant old towns.

We must have more summertime adventures! I love exploring with you...

Geraldine said...

What an interesting and informative post Jason. Love the pic of the little red boat that COULD!

Wishing you a great day! G

Scott said...

I remember my dad had a boat up in Juneau, and there was a route you had to take out of the inlet where he docked his boat. One wrong move and you would hit rock or some such. I'm not a mariner, but I can see why you would only navigate the waters you know.

Anonymous said...

Sarah, having made boating mistakes, I can't even imagine what's at stake when piloting these huge vessels. One oil spill, for example, and things would like years to recover.

Aine, I wish life could be constant exploration without work. *sigh*

Geraldine, once we saw the boats in action! It's quite a job.

Scott, inlets are such dicey places. I have great respect for the mariners who navigated before GPS and sonar.

SzélsőFa said...

What a peaceful photo!
It reminds me of the canals of Amsterdam.

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, it was such a bright, but quiet day. :)